Sunday, September 30, 2007

Detail

One of my passions is photography. I love the whole process--from that split second when you see a moment--or a shifting of light that must be captured--to experimenting with a photo to bring out its fullest beauty.

Often I find a detail that might otherwise be overlooked when considered as part of a greater whole; revealed as exquisitely beautiful when the photo is cropped.

In the same way, a detail of significance in scripture can be easily "read past."

The "greater whole" of scripture is essential to consider, but there is a special blessing in focusing in on a passage and allowing God, through the Holy Spirit, to speak through it, revealing a significant truth, or rich depth of meaning that I had not seen before.

Recently God spoke through several verses about being an example, or following an example. I thought of Jesus saying, "Do this in remembrance of me," Luke 22:19 as he distributed the bread and the wine of the Passover.

In September 29th's Daily Light these verses were included:

John 13:14-15 (New International Version)
14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

1 Peter 2:21 (New International Version)
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

John 5:19 (New International Version) Also quoted in the Daily Light reading, says that,
"the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does."

And John 13:7 says, in part:
Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

Jesus was rightly called Teacher and Rabbi. He was a master teacher, using story telling and questions to elicit learning. Today I ponder his use of example--his method of "show and tell," and his direction to us to then "do" what we have seen.

In examining the integrity of my faith, I look back to the gospel taught by Christ and become more aware of how we have adapted the Gospel to our culture. We can so easily lose the raw radicalism of Jesus' teaching.

His example is the only one I want to follow. Oh to be able to say, as confidently as the apostle Paul, "Therefore I urge you to imitate me, " 1 Corinthians 4:16, and verse 17, "my way of life in Christ Jesus...agrees with what I teach."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Heading Home.

By Susan Stewart
Black smudges of smoky grey clouds rise from the northern horizon like ominous harbingers of darkness, haunting a sky that glows a clear and endless purple-rose in the deepening twilight. I pop in my latest audio book as I turn my car south, heading home at the end of another crazy-busy workday. Rising and falling over hill and dale, my senses are fully aware of the beauty of the evening sky, the perfect backdrop for listening to Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.

I'm loving that book. Loving it. I'm glad I bought the audio version. The words are read aloud by the author himself and so with certain inflections that might be missed by a different reader. Those words are not only filling my ears, but reaching down to grab my soul - hard - and give it a good shake. I can't wait to read - or should I say, "listen to" - the sequel.

Hearing Donald Miller, as close and as real as if he was sitting there in the passenger seat, reveal his deepest thoughts, opening up hidden places of both peace and angst, makes me want to go back somewhere I think I might have been many years ago. Or maybe I've never been there at all, but somehow it's a place I'm aware of, and long for. A place, a "real" place, a "transparent" place, a place I gradually had to build a wall around not just because I was rejected so many times, but because I had failed others so many times too, just as they had failed me. I think a part of me - some "real" part - must have just given up and laid down somewhere along the way, raising its tired, wounded head here and there a time or two, even going so far as to wag a tail on the rare occasion. But only with a few and very trusted people. For the most part, as it's dawning on me now, I've too often surrounded my true self with a big fluffy cushion of "facade". And all the while priding myself on being "real". Hah.

Yuck.

Fluffy fake facades are so safe. At least that's what we tell ourselves. Are they? Knowing what little I do about God's Upside-down Kingdom, I doubt it. I'll bet the safest and most peaceful place on earth has to be a place of authenticity. That's the place where Jesus stood. Every step he took on earth, even to being stripped naked, beaten, and carrying a heavy cross, he never tried to be anything more - or less - than who he was. He never seemed to "try" at all. He was safe in his own skin. Safe in his personal identity. Father's son. Father's own.

I'm homesick. Homesick enough to be willing to risk getting hurt to get back there. Not just to visit once in a while. I want to move back home. At least I think I am willing. Right now tonight, I am.

"Let your yes be yes, and your no be no," Jesus said.

And let my "me" be the real me. So be it, Lord Jesus. But I'll really need your help.

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. It will stir you deeply, not just your emotions, but it will mess with your own personal status quo, flinging it aside to get right down to the real you. No wonder it's a New York Times Bestseller.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Test Already

A steaming mug of coffee in my hand, I drove the early morning highway south. I'm not usually on the road quite as early as I was today but I was meeting two colleagues at a car pool and had a drive of ten minutes or so to get there.

As I drove into the new day, with a pale full moon hanging in the blue sky above, I passed the rich farm land that is the Holland Marsh. The roofs of the small, neat houses of the community of Ansnorveldt poked up through a morning mist that hung over the fields, looking like the lost city of Atlantis, surfacing from the ocean waves.

Although part of me was noticing, appreciating and absorbing every detail of the passing scene, my mind was preoccupied with a comment left on my blog post of today. I had hastily read it as I prepared to leave the house and I'd had no time to respond. I'd been so taken aback at the contents of the comment that I didn't even know what I would have said.

My friend Poppy, mother of my 14 year old godson, Jacob, had left the comment, relating an incident between Jacob and his French teacher.

Jacob, a gifted student, a handsome boy, with a head of glorious, thick, curly, red hair--is polite, gentle, and still gives me heartfelt hugs at the drop of a hat. Most of all I love him, so when I read that his teacher had told him he couldn't wear a necklace I had given him a while ago, and which he had never taken off, I had strong feelings.

The necklace is made of black leather and has a crudely fashioned, squared nail hung from it. It's a cool necklace, made for teenagers who want to wear a symbol of their faith in Christ. Not the kind of thing I would have expected a teacher to consider a potential weapon. But that is what happened. I won't repeat the whole story, as it can be read in Poppy's comment on the blog, but I experienced a gamut of emotions--disbelief, anger and scorn. I know--not nice--but I felt them all.

I considered going to the school and asking to interview the teacher. I fantasized telling her I wanted to write and article for the paper on the issue. It wasn't so much that I wanted to take the time to write an article, as I wanted to make the teacher scared. Ouch! What had I written about just last night? Wasn't it about actually turning the other cheek--living according to Kingdom teachings?

Fortunately for Jacob, his mom got to him before his godmother. She did speak to the teacher, but she also did a wonderful job of guiding the boy we both love, toward being a man who follows God in action as well as words. This is what she wrote:

He was angry and thought it was stupid. I told him what I thought: that when Jesus went to that cross and was pinned with the real nails 2000 years ago, he went wordlessly. That if an unbeliever wore that necklace or a cross or any other Christian symbol, that it would have no meaning whatsoever, because it's not the symbol it's the relationship it symbolizes that is important. And that Jesus wants us to submit to authority-that's God's way-His will is best carried out His way. And that I would like Jacob to apologize to his teacher for lying to her (he had hidden it and carried it under his shirt) and being willful. And tell her the reason he is sorry is because the One he wears the necklace to remind him of would want him to do all these things. Jacob agreed. He's going to talk to her on Monday. Even out of sight, that necklace is going to be used for the Lord's purposes.And the reason why is simple-the God of Jacob;)gave us a model to emulate.His word shows us His ways and how to walk in them.And when we do the Lord's will--will be done.I'm so thankful to God for illuminating the wisdom of His ways to my son.As for my son, I'm so proud of him!

I am proud of both of them and challenged once more to live what I believe. I'll be looking out for the next test.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Would Jesus Recognize His Church?

Judges 17:6 (New International Version)
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

I wish I'd heard more of the interview, but it was a tantalizing clip that I heard on the fly from one place to another and I couldn't stick around to hear the end. It was on CBC radio--an American soldier speaking of interrogating a prisoner in Iraq. He described the man; tall and slim of frame, with long feet and toes, and long fingers.

The prisoner made no argument against the things he was accused of but he asked the soldier a question; "Are you a Christian?"

"Yes," said the soldier.

"You are not following the teachings of Jesus, to love your enemies and turn the other cheek," the prisoner replied.

The hours the soldier spent talking to this man, changed his perspective.

My point is not to comment on the war; the issues are complex. But the prisoner's question cannot be ignored as a challenge to all who call themselves by the name of Christ. Are we Christians?...Then how should we act?

This morning I read Judges 17, the story of a man named Micah who lived during a period of moral failure and idolatry in Israel. The religion Micah practised was hardly recognizable as the religion of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge Micah and his clan.

I felt challenged to measure my integrity to my faith. If I base my beliefs on God's Word I have need of his transforming.

Come Lord Jesus, into my life in greater power and purity. Transform my mind so that I love the things you love and hate the things you hate.

Romans 12:2 (New International Version)
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saving the Day


This morning the world seemed all gray and saffron as I drove along gray pavement, with a tongue of yellow, guiding the way.

A school bus, as yellow as goldenrod, passed me by and ripe corn stood, richly golden--traces of green almost completely gone.

Even the sun hung gloriously in a sky full of clouds that rolled restlessly and fretfully--angry dark gray over white-gray.

The world looked like a black and white photo in which only yellow had been highlighted.

I thought of the days that I've described. Each one seems engraved somehow in my memory.

There was an autumn day when the world looked like a glamourous woman, aware of her beauty, bold and confident, not coy or self conscious.

I remember the day last winter when a veil of snow drifted across the fields as if held by some invisible hand.

And this spring when a rich brown field was to my eye, a nut brown shoulder, over which was flung a mantle of rich mossy green.

A sudden variation on the golden theme took me by surprise. From above a group of quietly coloured trees arose a shock of orange leaves, vivid and glorious, looking like a tall red headed boy in a crowd of brown haired boys.

I have tried to "save the day."

Psalm 19:2-3 (The Message)
A David Psalm
1-2 God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tonight

Deuteronomy 4:7 (New International Version)
7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

We gathered, drawn together by a common bond, a desire to deepen our roots in the faith but also by a hunger for community and fellowship.

This night each week is when the tables are set for as many as come and a meal is a gathering place.

Tonight three or four different conversations were going on all at once over dinner. Two little girls in pajamas and fluffy housecoats were deep in conversation with Andrew, who has the priceless ability to converse with children and apparently enjoy it as much as they do. They are making precious memories and learning that their words are valued and taken seriously. This is one adult that listens and talks back--what a gift he is to them.

The meal was ready later than usual, and Susan P. and Michelle had to leave at 8.00--they both rise early for work, so we had prayer after supper so that they could be included and then leave before the book study. Six of us prayed for the needs of the person on our left--there were tears and laughter as we prayed--tears as people's prayers touched tender places and laughter as Michelle prayed that God would take me safely to London next week--and I begged, "No--I'm not going to London God--please don't take me there!" (I'm headed for Birmingham and had visions of the plane making an emergency detour to London).

We were deep in discussion on Soul Talk, by Larry Crabb, using some notes and discussion questions prepared by Susan Stewart, when Richard arrived. "I'm so glad I didn't miss prayer," he said. We laughed and said we would have to pray again.

After the study, the second wave of prayer was a refreshing and edifying time of blessing. I had started my day this morning reading Amy Carmichael, as usual, and the verse from Deuteronomy 4:7

... the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him

I thought to myself that this alone is a reason to pray. God comes near when we do!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Spending Life

Ephesians 5:15-17 (New International Version)
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

The scripture reference above came in an email from Harold Taylor today, with a note to say that these verses drive home the importance of time for him.

He also said:
"I will be interviewed by Christine Williams, On the Line, on CTV 2 PM October 3rd. This time it's stress and I suppose I'll be talking about the relationship between time and stress. Eli Bay, stress specialist, will be on the same program."

It sounds like something to mark on our calendars and watch if we can!
_________________________________________________

Isaiah 30:18 (New International Version)
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

As I read this verse before starting my day, I saw that God is not passive, detached or cerebral in his caring for us--but action oriented, initiating--he rises to show compassion. Our part...to wait. How we turn it all around--we want to be up and about and doing. We are like unbridled race horses--our energy unfocused.

Matthew 9:36 (New International Version)
36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Dear Lord, please help me and my friends who struggle with "overload." Please help us to "make the most of every opportunity," and "understand what the Lord's will is." Please teach us how to resist the pressures that pull us in many different directions and help us to keep our eyes and ears on you.

1 Peter 4:10 (New International Version)
10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Life Time

Isaiah 64:4 (New International Version)
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

I've been thinking a lot about time this weekend. It all started on Saturday morning, listening to Fresh Air with Jeff Goodes on CBC radio as I got ready for the day. Jeff's guest that morning, Harold Taylor, said that people have it all wrong when they think about organizing their time. He said that we should really think about spending "life" not "time" because that's what we're really doing--spending our lives.

"Spending life"--that does have a different feel to it than merely "spending time." It was a bit of a wake up call.

I want to spend my life--every minute of it--in a way that leaves me with no regrets--but I struggle to understand how to do that and am thankful for any words of wisdom on the subject.

I visited Harold's web site, http://www.taylorintime.com/ later that day, and realized that I fall into many of the pitfalls he mentions and I probably waste more time--or life--than I would like to think I do. Since it's the most precious commodity I have, I aim to do better.

But another important part of this opened up when I got together with Peter and Sue this evening. Peter read from a book by Andrew Murray, and one line that he read stood out--"God worketh for him that waiteth for him." We can be endlessly busy--but the way of the Kingdom is to be still first, to wait for God.

It seems to me to be the same principle as "tithing," that old fashioned word that means a tenth belongs to God. Just as giving a tenth can feel counterintuitive when there are financial pressures--the real underlying principle is trusting God to meet our needs.

So it is with waiting on God first before plunging into activity--even when it feels as if we must get on with the many tasks that are clamouring for our attention--it's all a matter of trust.

So I will be checking out Harold's web site again, but I want to do better at spending the first part of my day, unhurried and waiting on God. For in that hidden, secret place is strength and direction for the race.

Hebrews 12:13 (New Living Translation)
13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Terry Harris, Master Encourager Part 2

By Susan Stewart

I ran into Terry Harris last weekend, and I couldn't wait to tell him how the words I heard him speak had impacted me. Two years later I still feel the impact of that speech - and will for the rest of my life. His response was notable. He was sitting in front of a full plate of food waiting to take his first bite. I had the feeling I was being more than a little rude, so I tried to talk fast in order to let him get to his meal as quickly as possible. Terry didn't seem to mind my intrusion at all. He put down his fork and looked intently into my eyes as I spoke, repeating back to me some of the things I said by way of affirmation. He looked for all the world to be hanging on to every word I said. At that moment in time I felt like the most important person in the world to him, and I'll bet I was! He thanked me profusely for giving him that feedback and then asked me if I had a CD of his talk that day, recordings of which had been available to buy.

I had to say, "No, I didn't". I was a bit embarrassed for not having bought one at the time. How I wished in that moment I could have said, "yes!" But I needn't have worried. Nonplussed, he turned to his wife Dawn, who was listening as well as participating in the conversation equally intently, and asked if they had one along with them. He wanted to give one to me - free of charge. They didn't, but she fished another CD out of her bag and gave that one to me instead. I had approached him in order to thank him, and he ended up thanking me! I've been listening to that CD on the way to work all week long, and Terry, if you're reading this, thank you again, because listening to that series of your radio shows has been a real encouragement!

Terry is certainly a Master Encourager. After this brief encounter with him, I walked away not only with a new CD of some of his radio programs, but with a bit more of his courage tucked away inside of me. And I'm sure he doesn't have any less for sharing, either. That's how encouragement works. The more you give away, the more you get in return. Imagine if every person who walked away from an encounter with you, left with a bit of your courage inside them. That's the kind of man Terry Harris is, and that's the kind of person I want to be.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 NIV

Friday, September 21, 2007

Terry Harris, Master Encourager Part 1

s"Encouragement"

My etymology dictionary tells me it's a word that comes from the French "corage" and means "to produce courage", or "to put courage into".

I've also heard it explained that to encourage another means to actually break off a little piece of your own courage and put it into someone else - "sharing the wealth", so to speak. I love that idea, don't you? Breaking off a piece of your own courage to invest it in another life and then watching it produce courage in them, too.

Terry Harris is the embodiment of that concept. He is a "Master Encourager".

I heard Terry speak a couple of years ago at a managers training in Orillia. I was transfixed by his words at the time and they have never left me. He talked about how he has learned to turn "obstacles" into "opportunities", and not stopping there, he does everything he can to encourage others to do the same.

"Master Encouragers", Terry told us, are people who have made a difference in your life and without whose encouragement you couldn't be who you are today. They are the people who see beyond your present circumstances to something greater. They believe in you, dare to invest in you, challenge you to dream. One of Terry's Master Encouragers was his Grade One teacher who asked him, "What university will you go to?" She said it at a time in his life when he was very impressionable and there were many other voices that could easily have convinced him that he would never have that option. But that teacher's word of encouragement shone brighter than all the dark early predictions, and he actually finished his formal education with a Master's Degree from Tyndale.

My next post will be about my latest encounter with Terry and his wife Dawn. Stay tuned. In the meantime You can find out more about Terry by checking out his website at: <www.encourager.ca> You will enjoy discovering a bit about who Terry is, how he has turned some of his obstacles into opportunities and meet some of his Master Encouragers. Terry is someone who truly inspires me. Someone I want to be like.

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today..." Hebrews 13:3 NIV

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gems

Philippians 1:6 (New International Version)
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It was a few days ago that I pushed the large empty shopping cart into Costco, clutching my shopping list for the spaghetti supper fundraiser.

As I passed a large, illuminated display case, I stopped to gaze for a moment at things that were not on my list.

The case held shelves filled with graceful figurines; ladies in colourful ballgowns, skirts forever frozen in mid swirl--heads tilted just so. Their hands daintily held fans, or bouquets, or gathered skirts above tiny ankles.

It was the jewelery, though, that captured my attention and I admired the colours of the gem stones and the design of the various pieces.

"What is an "olive onyx?" someone asked.

She was short woman and stockily built, with short, reddish blond hair and she was addressing me. We must have looked like children at a toy store window at Christmas-time.

I looked at the necklace made of pale green gems with admiration but I did not know what an olive onyx was.

I learned that she had a little more knowledge of gem stones than I did. Onyx, she told me, is a rough looking, cloudy white stone. She described the polishing process that results in the perfect gems such as those in the case. According to the woman, under pressure, beryl turns into emerald, a precious stone.

I had to get on with my shopping, I had lingered long enough--so I bid my new friend goodbye.

As I walked away, I thought of the word I'd used recently to describe one of our team to someone. "She's a gem," I had said--and I meant that she is a precious person--of high quality in character.

I had just been reminded of the polishing (rough parts buffed off) and the pressure, that results in brilliant gems and I thought of the verse in Philippians that speaks of God's continuing work in us--the forming of the image of Christ. The forming of that image cannot take place without much abrasion and pressure.

Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways for September 18th said:
"Love will perfect that which it begins. It will not forsake the work of its own hands."

And in today's reading, speaking of difficult, prickly people:
"Flow through me, Patience of God, flow over the roughness of that soul even as the sea flows over rough rocks."

Prayer:
Lord, your work in my life is hard at times, but I welcome the hand of my Maker and Saviour for it is the hand of love. I want your beauty to shine through me with ever greater purity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Grateful


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It's the week of the great Spaghetti Supper and we are up to our eyeballs in meatballs, noodles, apples and pastry.
We're all working hard to raise money this Saturday for children with disabilities, living on the streets of countries less fortunate than Canada.
So this morning Frank, Greg, Susan and Martha gathered in my kitchen and we peeled, chopped, stirred and laughed together.
Greg was making the sauce, opening many cans--adding ingredients from a tried and true recipe--in vast quantities. It takes a lot of sauce to feed 100 people.
"Are you sure it's really 3 cups of sugar I have to add to this?" he asked. I went over to double check the recipe, yes, it was 3 cups--and noticed that Greg was part way through adding 3 cups of salt, not sugar, from the unmarked container on the table! The recipe only called for 1/2 a cup of salt!
Greg's eyes widened in horror. "Noooo--are you serious?" he said. He couldn't quite believe that I wasn't joking about it being salt.
Immediately we began skimming the surface of the sauce, trying to get it out before it sank. The sauce was rescued--once the meatballs go in, it will be just fine!
By 12 we had to be done as I had a work appointment to be at. I left three apple pies cooling on the stove top, while another two were cooling in the closed oven.
Three hours later I came back--and noticed in a doorway, one empty foil pie plate, slightly bent, with small vestiges of what looked like pastry clinging to the edges.
I thought that perhaps Molson had plundered the garbage, but I entered the kitchen and found 2, not 3 pies, on the stove--and a pile of crumbs on the wooden floor.
St. Molson had fallen from grace! This dog, who I don't think even gets dog biscuits, in one fell swoop hit a home run for doggie heaven.
I thought of how much all of us would have loved to have sampled a pie and how much we hoped to make by auctioning any remaining pies off--they are highly coveted. And I thought of Molson, licking his chops over the last crumbs of his booty.
I went to inform Brenda of Molson's downfall and was so focused on that, I ignored the sound of a child crying.
When I had recovered from my initial dismay over the missing pie, I discovered that Victoria had had a terrible day at school and was broken hearted over a series of events that resulted in her being unjustly punished and the target of a jeering busload of children who she inadvertently kept from leaving on time.
This is where an Omie can make a difference. First a big hug was needed and returned with heartfelt fervour. "You are a wonderful human being, " I said, "And in the morning, no one will remember this."
"It was a very big bus, with a lot of children," she said, as if she wasn't sure--but she was no longer crying.
"What a day this has been!" I declared--and launched into the tale of the salty sauce and the disappearing pie.
"And now, poor Victoria and her Bad Day!" I said, happy to see that she was beginning to laugh a little.
I'm grateful.
Grateful that Greg actually queried the quantity of "sugar" in the sauce.
Grateful that there were still 2 pies on the stove!
Grateful that even a disastrous day for a little girl, can be survived with the love of family. I'm grateful that she is ours and that we have her to love.
I'm grateful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What DO You Have?

This morning as I was preparing for work, I was overwhelmed at the thought of all the unfinished work I was about to face. I knew I had left my desk covered with a dozen projects, all unfinished, urgently interrupted at various stages of completion and in complete disorder. My "current" file is fast approaching three inches thick, and I have a number of deadlines bearing down on me. Not to mention the on-going demands of a very busy and ever-changing work environment. Don't get me wrong. I love my job, and perhaps it's the very nature of it - no two days, or even two hours are ever alike and I am in a constant state of going from crisis to crisis - which, believe it or not, is what I actually enjoy the most. However, that does leave the problem of getting everything back into order at some point and disciplining myself to stick to and finish some of the more mundane (and not so enjoyable) administrative aspects of my job - even when there are no stretches of uninterrupted quiet in which to do it. It's hard enough to stick at filling out forms and shuffling papers the first time around, and with no interruptions, but coming back to it once left feels like mountain climbing. And at this point, I'm looking at the Rockies, or maybe even the Himalayas, not the Appalachians!

I was thinking about what I don't have. I don't have my work caught up. I don't have a natural bent towards moving paper in any kind of organized fashion. I don't have a secretary. (In heaven, I'm definitely going to put in an order for one of those!) I don't have a 24 hour workday (though I try to stretch it out to that from time to time, much to my supervisor's chagrin). I don't have a "current pile" that is ever going to get any smaller. (I've learned that I'm doing well if I can just keep it from growing larger.) I don't have a ministry audit that is going to go away. I don't have a lot of things... And the more I thought about it, the more frustrated and panic-stricken I felt inside.

"What DO you have?" It was that still small voice I know so well.

Hmmm. I began to think about the boy who had five loaves and two fish. Or was it five fish and two loaves? At any rate, he sure didn't have enough to feed that hungry crowd of thousands on the hillsides. I'm sure his list of "don't haves" was far longer than his list of "haves". But Jesus wasn't interested in what he didn't have in his lunch. He only wanted to know what the boy did have. And then he worked miracles with it, not only filling all those mouths, but gathering up basketsful afterward! Baskets - of leftovers!

I thought about the woman in 2 Kings who had lost her husband and was about to lose her sons too. They were to be sold into slavery to pay off her debt. She'd lost nearly everything and was about to lose the rest. Like the boy with the loaves and fish, her list was pretty unbalanced, too. But God didn't seem to be interested in what she didn't have either.

"What DO you have?" Elisha had asked her.

"Just a little jar of oil," she had replied.

He told her to go out and get pots and jars and whatever she could borrow from all her neighbours. And not just a few. She filled her house with jars. She started pouring and the oil didn't stop until they were ALL filled. It was enough to pay off her creditor in full - and for her and her sons to live off the proceeds.

I may not have a secretary. Or a brain that is easy to keep on task. Or the gift of administration. Or a job that ever gets "caught up". But if I took what I do have and gave it to God, I couldn't possibly go wrong.

So what DO I have? Let's take inventory.

I have eight good hours ahead of me. And eight more the next day and eight more each day after that. I have a heart that won't quit, a team that won't let me, and if those two things failed, a boss who would never let me go under. I have colleagues who inspire me, a family that loves me, and a husband who supports me. And all of those a gifts from a God who will never leave me. Wow, it's already multiplying! Right here on the page.

How about you? What do you have? Take your inventory; give whatever you have to God. In his hands, it doesn't matter if it's just a little or a lot. And then prepare to be amazed. Because it's not about what you have, or have not. It's about whose hands it's in.

As for that mountain range that faces me, I'll keep you posted. But I'm prepared to be amazed!

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Don't Get God

Judges 13:24-25 (New International Version)
24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him...

Sometimes I just don't get God.

I'm reading my way through the book of Judges right now and this morning was reading about a guy named Samson.

Reading the Bible, historical accounts of real people's lives, is sometimes like watching one of those movies where you want to yell out, "No! Don't do it! Are you crazy?"

It makes Paul crazy because I actually do yell things out when I watch movies. I've never been able to watch quietly or with detachment!

Samson's conception was announced by an angel, which seems to have thrown his parents-to-be into a bit of a flap, as no doubt it would.

He was by all accounts destined for something pretty special, "set apart for God," "for the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines," is what the angel said.

Something must have got lost in the translation for Samson though, because being "set apart for God," got forgotten along the way and his physical appetites outstripped his spiritual appetite and got him into a LOT of trouble. This is where I wanted to yell, "Are you crazy?" But of course I was a few thousand years too late.

Funny thing though. God didn't seem to give up on Samson as quickly as I did, which is when thought, "I don't get God."

I don't get God, but I love him and I love his ways. I look at Samson and see a life gone sadly wrong, and it surely was, but I see something about God in the account of his life. Just because Samson misused what God gave him, God did not take it back. What he gives, he gives.

I need to be careful of that ever present tendency towards judging others because there's a lot more of Samson in me than I'd like to admit. Maybe I should be yelling at myself, "Are you crazy?" but then they really might come and take me away. Instead I think I'll pray:

Dear Lord, in this day, what is your calling for me? What will I do with it--with all that you have built into me? How will I steward the gifts which you have entrusted to me? Keep me true to your calling and true to you.

Judges 15:18-19 (New International Version)
18 Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, "You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" 19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi.

Romans 11:29 (New International Version)
29 for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Because of Who He Is

Psalm 100:5 (New International Version)
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The last few weeks have been so busy that I haven't have much time for reading. There is still a lot happening but I'm finding some precious time to get back to reading--a little at least!

Someone asked me recently if I ever read fiction. I grew up on the classics. I loved fiction--but although I consider it a weakness that I want to rectify, I rarely read fiction as an adult. I find myself drawn to books that challenge my thinking--that teach, or inspire me to grow.

I'm almost finished Alan Reynold's book, A Troubled Faith, published by Word Alive. I've enjoyed reading and thinking my way through it. Alan is a retired minister of the United Church, who lives in B.C.

In the chapter I'm reading, The Heart's True Home, Alan describes his journey to belief in Jesus's physical and spiritual resurrection. He had initially considered belief in the resurrection to be the result of mass hysteria, but as he studied the evidence, much like others such as Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) and Josh McDowell (More than a Carpenter), the evidence for the resurrection convinced him.

One of the many factors that convinced him, was the change in the disciples, following a resurrection they were not expecting to happen. Their initial plan after Jesus's crucifixion, seems to have been to go back to their pre-Jesus lives, such as being fishermen. Something changed that--the resurrection of Jesus.

It certainly wasn't a life of ease and success that beckoned, but a life of persecution and hardship.

In Acts chapter 5, the teacher Gamaliel, at whose feet the apostle Paul had studied, said:

"Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Only a rock solid faith in the One who is Faithful and True took the ragamuffin band of disciples to the lives of heroic sacrifice they lived from that point on.

Because of Who he is.

1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 (New International Version)
3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Goodness of God

Hebrews 11:6 (New International Version)
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I read the devotional verses in a hurry--not my usual leisurely Saturday morning filled with family and time to reflect. I had to be somewhere and needed to leave early.

But as I read the Daily Light, these verses leaped out at me and seemed to say; "What you believe about God is as important as believing in him."

So here I am at the end of my busy Saturday, trying to articulate that thought sensibly.

Our thoughts about God can be affected by all sorts of things, but he isn't a fairy tale, created by a flight of fancy made up to suit our liking--he is real and revealed in the pages of the Bible, through story and account. And to that can be added our experience of who he is.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is saying that as well as believing that God is, we must believe that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. In other words, we need to believe in the goodness of God--and James concurs--doubt is a self fulfilling prophesy.

I've learned the importance of having faith in my closest relationships. It's really detrimental to the relationship is you can't trust in who the person is. When you believe in the goodness of the person, despite evidence appearing to the contrary, something powerful happens. It solidifies the relationship. You have to be able to trust the person's heart.

So it is with God. No matter what the circumstances look like; because I've experienced it and because I believe his Word--God is good. His heart for us is good. He loves us with an everlasting love.

I believe in the goodness of God.


James 1:6-7 (New International Version)
6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two Kinds of Pleasure

I was at two very different gatherings yesterday.

Last night we went to a concert with friends. It was fun - on the surface, anyway. The singer and his band have a tiny cult following and play in small towns, folk festivals, and county fairs all over North America. Last night they were in Alliston, and because one of Ron's close friends loves this guy's quirky slant on life, delivered on a country platter (you couldn't get more "country"), we went too. We were expecting "a cultural experience" and that's exactly what we got. A very down-home-rural-Ontario-country-music kind of experience. It was entertaining. We smiled a lot, looked down at the floor when one or two of the jokes unfortunately went a little off-colour, but for the most part enjoyed the nostalgic imagery this fellow stirred up in us as he sang about things like John Deere tractors and White Rose gas stations. (Remember White Rose? And Supertest?)

The other gathering I was part of yesterday was in Muskoka. It was a meeting of managers who work for Christian Horizons. We were there "on business", but our business transcends the exchange of services for a pay cheque every couple of weeks. We serve people with disabilities and we view our jobs not just as a vocation, but as a ministry -- a ministry in which we are privileged to participate. Although the previous evening had been a time to relax and re-create, yesterday we discussed things like requirements for future accreditation and received updates on agency business. Even though it was a "business meeting", I left there feeling energized and inspired, better equipped to serve with excellence. It's all about the people we support. We are setting high standards so that we can be the best that we can be in their service. We can do no less. You see, there are glimpses of the Lord Jesus Christ in each of their faces. In a very real sense, it's Him we're ministering to, since his presence is evident somewhere, in varying degrees, in every single one of their lives.

Eric Liddel was an Olympic runner, whose story of competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, is depicted in the movie "Chariots of Fire". He expressed the inner joy he felt that kept him on the track and headed for world-class competition. "When I run, I feel God's pleasure," he said.

In that manager's meeting yesterday, I felt God's pleasure, even though it was 'work'. Work? I have to pinch myself sometimes. I just can't believe I get to do what I get to do and get a pay cheque for it!

I was part of two gatherings yesterday, and experienced two kinds of pleasure. Whether I get paid for it or not, hands down, I'll take God's pleasure anytime.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back

Yesterday our team of 25 or so northern managers and area managers, gathered in Dwight; in the beautiful Lake of Bays area, not far from Algonquin Provincial Park. We stayed overnight, then had a one day working retreat.
It was a weary group that gathered. Getting away isn't easy, but once there, you could see people unwind and relax.
Last night there was a camp fire on the shore. I hear there was a guitar and laughter. Some sank gratefully into bed early. I retreated to my room for precious alone time. To some a retreat means people--to me a retreat means...retreat--although I love people too.
Before breakfast Terry ran 6 kilometers--she's training for a half marathon. Gloria walked and Susan sat out on the dock watching the mist roll in from the lake.
I sat on the little balcony outside the cabin room and listened.
I heard Terry return from her run with a tired sigh. A few minutes later, down below, I heard her banging her running shoes together to loosen the mud from their soles.
There was a soft riffling of pine branches as a breeze passed through the tree tops, and the cawing of a crow.
"If Tiffany-Amber was here," I thought, "She would be answering the crow with a cry from somewhere deep within her child chest." She has an amazing gift of mimicking of bird calls--or "becoming" an animal of any kind.
The breeze again caught the pine needles and a sound like the applause of tiny hands rose to a brief crescendo, then dropped again as if led by some unseen conductor.
A lone silver birch stood tall and spindly and white among the evergreens, her topmost leaves, quivering green discs, trembling like jade beads.
I collapsed into helpless fits of laughter at least twice. We had a group photo taken and there we stand, at the back,Terry and Lesley-Ann and I, laughing uncontrollably. The three of us are to the right of Greg in the middle of the back row--Terry having just reminded me of a funny moment when another group photo had been taken.
On that occasion, because she is tall, someone had suggested she crouch down a bit, so as not to block the person behind. We all assumed that the shot would be head and shoulders of the group. It was not to be; it was a full length shot, with Terry--knees bent oddly. but nicely even in height with everyone else.
Renewal and refreshment--I am so grateful for them. I feel "back" in more ways than one.

John 4:14 (New International Version)
14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tension Point

Psalm 139:1-3 (New International Version)
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

This morning I'm wondering about the tension between forgiving and offence and letting it go--and the importance of working it through to complete understanding.

Forgiveness--God just won't let us off the hook for it--and yet it's a complex business.

I read an amazing book by John Bevere years ago, The Bait of Satan. The "bait," is offense. The Enemy can ensnare us and poison us with the toxicity of an offense allowed to fester in a soul. I've bought and given away that book several times, and currently don't have it on my book shelf. I'll be buying it again, for it's a book I find helpful.

In the book I'm currently reading, How to Have That Difficult Conversation You've Been Avoiding, by Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend, they talk in chapter 14, about the past, the present and the future, and I've found what they had to say, helpful.

They state that forgiveness has to do with the past, letting go of something someone has done to us. It takes only one to offer forgiveness. It's a choice that is ours.

Reconcilitation has to do with the present. This part isn't necessary in order to do the first--and it involves two people, usually one of whom accepts forgiveness and apologizes. I can testify to the rich blessings of working through to this point with a dear friend or two, or three.

Trust has to do with the future. It involves what you will risk happening again. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you will open yourself again.

One thing I believe for sure: relationship is the most important thing to God. I don't believe it matters to him what we do--as much as it matters what we are to one another.

Proverbs 4:23 (New International Version)
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Weary Warriors

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Tonight I feel tired, but I'm grateful for a bed that waits in the next room and the hours of cool, dark night that still remain before tomorrow. Outside the house a moisture laden wind blows, sounding like the rushing waves of the ocean, but inside all is still and quiet.

There are times when it seems like there are just more things to do than time to do them in and I end up feeling scattered, disorganized and failing because I just can't get it all done.

I'm grateful for helping hands, like my dear friend Susan, who led cell group tonight--and Ann, who brought dessert, when I had forgotten all about it, reminding me that God knows.

I need to lean into others more, I know that.

I don't think I've ever aimed for perfection, but the longer I live, the more grateful I am to just make it through, hitting the most important things.

So, I will do my best, following in my mum's footsteps. She still says, from time to time in her 81st year--"I do my best." And she does!

Tonight I lift up my "best" to God and I ask him to add to it his blessing and his power. I pray for those of us who are weary, that God would give us wisdom in the choices we make and strength for the tasks he calls us to.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 (New International Version)
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hymn on a Highway

A pale sun hung in a sky of beaten silver as I drove in the morning rush hour.

The "rush hour" turned out not to be--anything but--it gave ample opportunity for staring at the world I passed by slowly.

A row of corn topped with rusty gold tassels stood on a high bank, silhouetted against the light blue sky, like a fringed Persian rug.

Bull rushes back lit by the morning sun, filled the ditches between the north and south lanes of Highway 404. It was a place of glory.

Returning home I took the back way through the country and saw signs for Balsam and Claremont and Myrtle--pretty, old fashioned names--and drove past more ditches resplendent with grasses, goldenrod, bull rushes--all fringed and fronded!

Corn fields on every hand, were busy whispering secrets to the wind.

And I was absolutely drunk with the beauty of the day.

Psalm 150 1-6
The Message
Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
Hallelujah!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Granddaughters

Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

It was Saturday; otherwise known as Pancake Day in our home. I had the coffee made (top priority) and was sifting flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

I heard soft footsteps--someone else was up. It was a pajama clad Tiffany-Amber, who I put my arms around for a good morning hug--Tiffany-Amber, long and lean of body, with long, straight, dark blond hair and serious, dreamy eyes--with a sensitive artist's soul.

She began helping, cracking eggs and fetching the electric beaters from the drawer.

"How was school?" I asked.

"Fine," she said, and told me what she'd been doing in the first four days.

I asked which grade she'd just started and she told me, "Four."

"Four, already?" I said, in amazement.

"Yes," said Tiffany-Amber, her face pensive. I had obviously touched a nerve.

"I don't want to grow up."

"Do you mean you're having such a good time right now, and you want it to stay like this forever?"

She nodded.

I gave the batter a stir.

"Well, Sweetie, that things are so happy for you now is a very good thing. But do you know what God says about your future?"

She shook her head.

"Jeremiah, who was a prophet, says that God has wonderful plans for your life,"--and I quoted the verse, "If you don't grow up, you'll never find out what they are."

Tiffany-Amber's eyes widened and she looked like she was giving serious consideration to maybe growing up.

It was later, after breakfast, with Victoria, quick of mind and wit, and their mom, Brenda having her Saturday morning coffee with me in our big, sunny room, that our conversation continued.

We read Psalm 139:13-16 and talked about knitting and what it meant that God knit them together, intricately weaving together every part of who they were--and again, how all of their days were already written in God's book, before they were even born--that he has a special purpose for their lives. As they listened carefully to a grandmother's words, I thanked God for an opportunity to speak a message of purpose into young lives.

Later I returned from shopping to find Peter, Sue and our other four grandchildren here. Katherine of the dark hair and eyes and the tall, slim frame, ran up to me and gave me a children's worship CD.

"I brought this so that you could listen to it," she said, "I thought that you would like it."

The emphasis was not lost on me. I treasure my growing connection with this granddaughter who has so much in common with her other grandmother, who sews beautifully, as Katherine does.

I put it on right away, and made sure that I give her feedback on the music.

Nineteen month old Emily was busy pointing at Maple Cream cookies, opening them up, eating the cream then flinging the actual cookie to one side and pointing at the bag for another. I observed that she hadn't finished the cookie.

"Oh, she never actually eats the cookie," said Sue, "Just the cream.

"Hmmm Emily," I thought, as she continued opening and flinging, "Good taste!"

Psalm 139:13-16 (New International Version)
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Humility Check

1 Samuel 2:3 (New International Version)
3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

I need no other word to maintain a position of humility than this, "The Lord is a God who knows."

How easy it is to look at people who are struggling--or not--with obvious sin and think of them as different to me.

How like the Pharisee, in the story told in Luke 18:10-14, whom I imagine pulling his robes tightly around himself, as he thanked God that he was not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or the tax collector praying with him in the temple.

But when I think about the Lord, who is "a God who knows," I am undone. Suddenly I am the tax collector, who would not even raise his eyes to heaven. And I say with him, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."

Lord, forgive me for forgetting sometimes who I am. Thank you for reminding me today that you know. Make my heart as tender towards others-- compassionate and full of grace as you are.

Psalm 51:6 (New International Version)
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Who's Following Who?

This morning I had to go to court one more time to fight a speeding ticket. Now, if I get a ticket and I deserve it, I pay it. I may grumble and complain a little, but I pay it. Okay, some of you know I grumble and complain a lot! But I pay it.

This time was different. I don’t doubt I was speeding, but I did have serious doubts about the officer's observations and what he was offering as evidence.

This morning was my fourth court appearance for the same ticket. It’s a long and complicated story, and I won’t bore you with the details, but let me tell you as succinctly as I can what God did.

I was SO nervous. A courtroom can be a very intimidating place and the characters on the stage are not often very helpful to you standing up there when you’re not used to things and don’t know the correct procedures and you don't even speak the same language! (Legalese.) In fact there is serious danger of your ignorance, not to mention your lower intelligence, being taken advantage of at every turn. Crown attorneys and judges are very, very smart people. They are used to the courtroom jargon, are comfortable in the environment, and can easily intimidate you with their body language and facial expressions, while at the same time confusing you with their words and phrasing of questions. Yikes!

I didn’t talk very much about the upcoming day in court, even to my nearest and dearest, because it would stir up so much adrenaline and so quickly that I would instantly feel sick at heart if not sick at my stomach. So I avoided the subject. I avoided thinking about it too, but would occasionally throw up a quick prayer, knowing that whatever happened, God would take care of me. How’s that for being fractured? On one level – probably my flesh --I was scared silly, and on another level (in my spirit?) I was confident that God was in control.

God has been speaking to me through the book of John the last few weeks. I have been reading through my favourite gospel very, very slowly, this time -- just thinking about it and letting every scene seep in – sometimes spending a week or more on one little passage. I’ve been trying to “get to know” - really, really know - the man Jesus. Through his actions, and through his interchanges with others.

This very week I was reading about the calling of his disciples in the first chapter of John. (I told you I was going slowly!) I thought about it often, putting myself “there”, imagining what it would be like to have been invited - in the flesh - to “Follow Me”.

Today as I was driving along toward the courthouse (watching my speed, of course), I was too far too distracted about the submission I was about to make in court to put a string of very many words together to form any kind of meaningful prayer. I heard my heart saying to God, simply, “Well, you’ll be going with me – that’s good.”

“No, I won’t,” I heard his still small voice. “I won’t going with you, you’ll be going with me. You’re following me, remember? I’m not following you.”

Wow. It was another one of those instant changes in perspective. Instead of me going through life hoping that God is following me around in whatever mess I find myself in this time, it’s actually him that’s leading the way through it all (if I acquiesce, that is). What a huge difference that little shift makes. It's a whole new paradigm.

It was him today that led me into that courtroom. I thought about all the decisions that were made leading up to this day. He was involved in every one. I had tried to follow his direction every step of the way through all the proceedings of every court appearance. Before today's epiphany I guess I kind of just assumed God would show up in court with me. When I got in trouble, he would be there. But now, I see that he has things to teach me and the path he has ordained for me to walk actually led me there today. Suddenly I was a lot more calm! It didn't matter what happened, whether I "won" or "lost" the case, I was following him through it.

So I drove up to the courthouse, parked my car opposite the front door, and followed God in there. (Can you see me trotting along behind him? That’s what it felt like!)

I was well prepared. My husband had poured out every ounce of love he has for me this week to make sure of that. He organized my submission, all my evidence, correspondence, and even copies of precedent setting cases into three bound volumes, one for the Crown, one for the Court, and one for me.

I handed them out to the respective parties and heard the crown attorney say, “This is amazing. A LOT of work has gone into this. I’ll need a short recess, your worship, to look this over.” There was a buzz filling the courtroom.

Recess was granted and she disappeared into a side-room for about half an hour. When she came out she called me aside, “I’m going to withdraw this case,” she said. “You have everything here.”

When she went back to her place in front of the bench she was asked by the police officers and others milling about what she was going to do. “I’m going to withdraw the case,” she said. “And I’m going to hire her.” She was pointing at me!

“Did you do this?” a police officer asked, pointing to the bound submission.

“We did,” I answered, pointing to my husband Ron. (I didn’t tell them it was 99% him and 1 % me, but that didn’t seem prudent at the time.) Everyone in the courtroom was looking at us. And they were smiling!

“Are you lawyers?” they asked. And then “What DO you do?” when we answered no.

“He’s a surveyor, and I work with children with autism.” They shook their heads in amazement.

“Don’t throw that away,” someone said, referring to the bound submission. The inference was that it could be used to help others who found themselves in the same situation.

At the end of it all, the judge began apologizing for the trouble the court had put me through. I interrupted him with the following speech:

“I’d like to say something, your honour. This has been an incredible process for me to go through. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m grateful for every step of the way. This is a great country, Canada. Whichever way the case would have gone, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to “have my day in court”.”

I added that the Crown (that's Legalese for: prosecuting attorney) and the Court (Legalese for the four different judges who had been involved in each appearance) had been very helpful with guiding me through the process and I thanked them sincerely.

“Well, thank you, for that,” said the judge kindly. He was genuinely appreciative of my words. His face said it all. He added, “You can be sure that will go into the court record,” while he looked expectantly at the court recorder. Then he turned back to me, “You’re free to go.”

Free to go? I sighed a huge sigh. And I followed God right back out of there, of course!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bizarre

Romans 3:23-25 (New International Version)
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.

The phone rang and it was Frances on the other end sharing an epiphany. As she spoke I grabbed my pen and started to write. I almost always want to write what she says.

Once when I tried to convince her to write herself, she said, "I have a hard enough time keeping up with my thoughts in spoken words, but if I was trying to write, my mind would be on word number 10,000 and my pen would be at word number two!”

So it's up to me and often I try to write her words down as they flow out at high speed.

This morning God was working out in her something wonderful. She was the friend in the post of September 1st--Flawed Yet Favoured. She was down but not out--and the story continues.

Embracing who I am, in fulness and freedom has been my own journey recently--not thinking more of myself than others, but not thinking less, either.

With Frances it took a slightly different slant. She discovered that being fully who she is was necessary in order to be able to fully repent. Because she was able to fully repent, God enabled her to fully embrace and fully accept that part of herself that she would rather deny.

She said, "If you pooh-pooh it, run away from it, or deny it, there is no repentance or tranformation. I had to be thoroughly ashamed and convicted."

"That is a part of who I am, vulgar, angry," she said.

"A part of who Jesus died for, 2,000 years ago, when I was still uncreated."

"Who we are, " she said, "Crap and all, is who he died for."

Since the incident that caused so much shame and regret, Frances has been praying for the salvation of the man who was the target of her anger. Something very good is coming out of it.

Isaiah 64:6 (New International Version)
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

"The good and the best that we can offer is filthy rags," said Frances, "When you think of who you are and how much you are loved--it's bizarre!"

"My righteousness is filthy rags--my righteousness! If my righteousness is filthy rags--my unrighteousness my personality, my quickness must be "what?"

Romans 5:20 (New King James Version)
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

"Rather than letting sin abound, I'm fully accepting that God made me who I am and I am praying, 'Lord develop in my your patience.'"

"And patience isn't something you get quickly. There's the irony of it."

My friend Dwayne wrote on his blog, for June 25th, at http://www.damkes.blogspot.com/ "I've learned that God prefers to use screw-ups - people that don't have it together and are not likely candidates to the rest of us."

I'm so glad he does--because then, perhaps, he can even use me.

Secret Places

I was talking with a friend today, who shares a love of reading.

We tend to like the same kinds of books--books that challenge us and make us think about things in new ways--so I'm always interested in what he's reading and often go out and buy that book because I know I'll love it.

So what he's reading now is, A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne. The conversation got around to books because we were talking about sin and the fact that we are all capable of self deception and sin. The writer of this book, he said, talked about how sin grows in secret places, like fungus in the dark and damp.

He continued to share how the author spoke of the inadequacy of accountability groups because you can lie to them. He said he tries instead, to live as much of his life as possible, out in open places where he can be seen, because for him, that is safety.

I thing there's much wisdom in those words. In some ways I've done that in some blog posts--being as transparent as I could be, or dared to be, about my own struggles--although the writer didn't mean "being out in the open" quite in that way. For me there is safety in being frank. I know that I have a community of friends who know me for better or worse.

The community of faith is meant to support and encourage other members towards greater closeness to God.

So while I can keep a secret if I have to, I try not to keep too many--for my own sake and that of others!

Psalm 143:6-8 (New International Version)
6 I spread out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O LORD;

my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,

for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:12 (New International Version)
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

Labour Day felt like Christmas to me--but without the pressure.

In the morning I met with some friends for tea at Starbucks inside Chapters. I brought along a pie for two of them--the biggest and best I knew how to bake, and I came home with a book that looks and sounds really interesting and which I look forward to reading--a gift from one of the friends.

Later, in the evening, I met with other friends to celebrate a birthday in the city. We had a wonderful celebration--Swiss Chalet this time. One of those friends had brought a book for me and a CD--even though I wasn't the birthday celebrant.

Gifts given--pie, books Cd's--but the deeper gifts were the gifts of ourselves. The best gifts we could give anyone.

Our German friend left for the airport between the tea party and supper. As she stood in the driveway before getting into her rental car to drive away, she took my hands, looked into my eyes and said, "Stay who you are." I wish I could remember the German expression she used and translated, but in essence I believe that they are words we should all take to heart.

I am convinced that we all need to turn up the intensity on who God made us and be ourselves for all we are worth--unashamed, unfiltered and undiluted.

There is a great freedom in doing this--in being happy to be who you are and to fill the place that God gives you to fill.

Psalm 139:16 (New International Version)
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Monday, September 03, 2007

He Meets Us Where We Are

In Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways for today, she shared a thought that was beautiful, in relation to reading the Bible.

Using the analogy of a light shining on a body of water, whether the sun, moon, or a bright planet such as Venus, she said that from where a person was standing, they would see a path beginning--no matter if a hundred people stood in different places along the shore.

In the same way Amy said that no matter where people read from the Bible, they would find a path leading them from that place, straight to the heart of God.

That made me think of the fact that God meets all of us where we are and that the same thing applies. Thank goodness that we don't have to reach an exalted status spiritually to come to God, but simply have to have an open heart. Then, if we will only look up we will see a shining path leading to him.

Mark 2:15-17 (New Living Translation)
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

Proverbs 15:13 (New Living Translation)
13 A glad heart makes a happy face;
a broken heart crushes the spirit.

I went to the mall on the spur of the moment, intending to pop in and get something quickly. It was the week before school started and it looked busy. On top of that, with a great sense of timing, the front parking lot of the mall was being repaved, so whole sections of it were cordoned off. Driving in I squeezed my car past various pieces of construction equipment and made my way to the edge of the parking lot where I found a little oasis of concrete with nothing going on. I noticed a few pylons, but didn't pay too much attention to them.

Half an hour later, I returned to find my car surrounded by machinery and a construction crew. You know when you come upon a group of people who are waiting for you...they have a certain air...There was a short, stockily built Italian man who seemed to be in charge. He looked at me in amazement and said, "Lady, is this your car?"

There was no point in denying it so I said, "Yes, I'm so sorry. Wasn't I supposed to park here?"

"The pylons are here for a reason you know," he said. He didn't need to emphasize it quite so much, I thought.

What could I say? "It must be the blond hair," I said, and laughed. I was relieved that he was laughing too now.

I made the mistake of telling Brenda about this little incident a couple of nights later when she asked me to go clothing shopping with her. She kept bursting into laughter at the thought of it. I thought she took it a bit far when she bought an orange sweater and said, "It's Pylon orange Mom."

I was comforted by my daughter-in-law Sue this afternoon when she joined me in the league of champion nut cases. I was showing her the beautiful hand made Cree Tamarack bird that Paul brought back from his trip last week to James Bay. It is a life sized decoy Canada Goose fashioned out of twigs. It sat on my coffee table on its three twig legs, and Sue said, "Why does it have three legs?"

I explained that it wouldn't balance on two twigs, and the third one was for balance. She said, "But shouldn't it have four?" Which was when I burst out laughing!

"This is going on your blog tonight isn't it?" she said. I'm still laughing as I think of four legged geese flying overhead!

I have a small collection of similar wacky moments. I remember challenging a group of people to a race to the top of a hill with the words, "First one to the top buys dinner." Yeah! And they still let me out alone. :)

Proverbs 15:15 (New Living Translation)
15 For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Flawed yet Favoured

Isaiah 6:1-8 (The Message)
by Eugene H. Peterson
Holy, Holy, Holy!
1-8 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of his robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above him, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other,

Holy, Holy, Holy is God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
His bright glory fills the whole earth.The foundations trembled at the sound of the angel voices, and then the whole house filled with smoke. I said,

"Doom! It's Doomsday!

I'm as good as dead!Every word I've ever spoken is tainted—
blasphemous even!
And the people I live with talk the same way,
using words that corrupt and desecrate.
And here I've looked God in the face!
The King! God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
"Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me.
He held a live coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
He touched my mouth with the coal and said,

"Look. This coal has touched your lips.

Gone your guilt,
your sins wiped out."
And then I heard the voice of the Master:
"Whom shall I send?
Who will go for us?"
I spoke up,
"I'll go.
Send me!"


The ringing of the phone this morning heralded a friend returning from a battle the worse for wear.

She had spoken words in rage--ugly words designed to humiliate and cut down. Wit had been employed as a weapon.

Now, in the cold light of reason, the fire of anger had burned out, leaving embers of shame. The humiliation was hers alone.

But in the womb, a Father had watched her grow. He gave the gift of wit and words.

A Foe looked on also--he saw the gift and sought to destroy, to defeat and defame this daughter of Eve.

The Father's way is not to repent of his gifts, woven into the fabric of his children. Wondrously he chooses to use the weak and flawed--to pour himself into such earthy vessels and glorify them with his Presence. He en-trusts and trusts--even when trust is broken.

*************************

The area of strongest enemy attack in our lives is often on the area of our intended identity in the Kingdom. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). Susan Stewart wrote a blog post entitled It's All About Perspective on August 23rd about how a simple sentence changed her perspective and undid the destruction of the enemy in an area of her life. She was released to be all that God intended her to be--someone who has the right words to speak at the right moment--an inspirer of others.

When I consider the area in which I've suffered temptation, attack and weakness, it is the heart. And yet my God given purpose was always to love and encourage--to care for others in a shepherding role.

My friend of this morning's conversation reclaimed her daughterhood and identity in Christ. A skirmish lost was merely a springboard to greater revelation and deeper consecration.

And then I heard the voice of the Master:"Whom shall I send?Who will go for us?"I spoke up, "I'll go. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

Isaiah 42:3 (New International Version)
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;